“Through faith, Moses’ parents hid him for three months, for they knew he was a destined child. They were not afraid to disobey the king’s decree. Through faith, Moses later refused to be known as Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing to endure maltreatment with God’s people rather than enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin. He considered abuse, such as would be heaped upon the future Messiah, more precious than all the wealth of Egypt. He looked beyond to the ultimate rewards awaiting him.” (paraphrased)
Having briefly sketched the faith of the patriarchs, the writer provides an overview of the faith of Moses. As the founder of the Levitical system, Moses would naturally be a prominent figure in the minds of his readers. The writer bypasses centuries of enslavement in order to focus on a Hebrew who became an Egyptian prince.
Seventy people came into Egypt at Joseph’s invitation (Gen. 46:27). God’s promises to Jacob were perfectly fulfilled as His people settled in the most fruitful section of of this land and became a great nation (Ex. 1:1-7). They enjoyed peace and prosperity there for many years. But the prophecies concerning their subsequent oppression were also fulfilled (Ex. 1:8-14). At some point in the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, a Pharaoh came to power that was unconcerned about Joseph’s former greatness – or how the Hebrews came to live in his country. As the nation of Israel continued to grow, so did the fears of Pharaoh. He was concerned these immigrants might one day side with Egypt’s enemies and overthrow his empire. This prompted drastic efforts to reduce their numbers.
The first measure adopted was enslavement (Ex. 1:11). Appointing Egyptian taskmasters to oversee their work, Pharaoh hoped their strength would diminish under harsh oppression. His plan was to work the Jews to death – as Hitler tried to do centuries later. “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied” (1:12).
The second step Pharaoh took was to command the Hebrew midwives to destroy all male children at birth (1:16). However, they deceived him and did not comply (1:20).
His third and final solution was genocide through infanticide. He ordered the drowning of all Hebrew male babies (Ex. 1:22). Pharaoh’s edict foreshadowed one made by a tyrant fourteen centuries later. In an attempt to target the Jewish Messiah, Herod ordered all children of Bethlehem under two years old to be slain (Mt. 2:16). Warned in a dream, Joseph took Mary and Jesus into Egypt until Herod died (2:13-20). Hosea’s prophecy was thus fulfilled; “Out of Egypt have I called my Son” (Mt. 2:15 & Hos. 11:1).
Moses was born during one of the darkest hours in the history of Israel. But Pharaoh’s murderous mandate actually led to the preservation of Israel’s deliverer. Moses father and mother were descendants of Levi, the tribe Moses later appointed as priests (Num. 26:59). Amram and Jochebed parented three children: Aaron, Miriam, and Moses. When Moses was born, Jochebed realized he was precious and favored (Ex. 2:2). In recounting this story, Steven said the infant Moses was “exceedingly fair” and “lovely in the sight of God” (Acts 7:20). The writer to the Hebrews records that Moses’ parents saw he was (asteios) – extraordinarily beautiful and pleasant. These references combine to picture a remarkable and exceptionally handsome boy. Jochebed and her husband were convinced Moses was destined for greatness. They were unafraid to defy Pharaoh, for they knew a greater King who ruled a greater Kingdom.
After hiding Moses for three months, the faith of this couple was further demonstrated by an act that defied all logic. Placing their baby in a waterproof ark of papyrus reeds near the bank of the Nile, Jochebed instructed Miriam to observe what would transpire (Ex. 2:4). Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe there, saw the basket, and opened it to discover a crying infant (2:5-6). Miriam stepped forward to ask the princess if she would like her to fetch a nurse for the baby (2:7). Like many of the enigmas in Hebrew history, Jochebed was paid to nurse her own child (Ex. 2:9). Her care and influence ensured Moses would be reared as a child of Jehovah, rather than as a victim of Egyptian paganism. This inconspicuous couple thus became the chief instruments in the preparation of Israel’s greatest hero. They courageously defied sectarian authority – and were rewarded by watching their son free the nation.
Adopting the infant as her own child, Pharaoh’s daughter named him Moses, meaning “he who was rescued from the water.” The same river that was the instrument of death for other Hebrew infants carried Moses to a safe haven. To ensure the fulfillment of His promises made to the patriarchs, Jehovah arranged the protection of the man He had chosen to deliver his brethren. It is supernaturally ironic that Moses was reared in the palace of a tyrant who had murdered myriads of other Hebrew children.
Pharaoh’s daughter raised Moses as her son and he realized he owed her his life (Acts 7:21). His prospects were phenomenal, for his position promised him great honor, wealth, and power. But Moses’ renunciation of the ties to his stepmother does not suggest ingratitude. Family bonds are inevitably difficult to sever, but he was guided by his faith in God. Stephen indicated Moses made his decision to leave Egypt when he was about forty and fully comprehend the significance of his actions (Acts 7:23). Although a definitive break with his past was essential in order to fulfill his destiny as a deliverer, Scripture does not record when God specifically revealed to Moses his mission.
Some have imagined God’s plans for Israel’s emancipation might best have been served had Moses continued as a member of the royal family. Moses was aware that Joseph, four centuries earlier, had also enjoyed a favored position in Egypt. But since that era the political winds in this dictatorship had radically shifted. This small band of Hebrews had grown into a big problem for those in authority. Though an earlier Pharaoh had blessed Joseph, the current monarch felt no obligation to do the same for Moses (Ex. 1:8). Whereas Joseph had been called to preserve his people in Egypt, Moses was called to lead his people out of Egypt.
This verse focuses on the decisions which Moses made. Several things should be noted about the voluntary relinquishment of his position:
<> His choice was determined by his faith in the future God promised him.
<> His choice involved enormous sacrifice, for his prospects as a royal prince were awesome.
<> His choice exposed him to degradation, defamation, and suffering.
<> His choice was made at the risk of his life, for Pharaoh sought to slay him.
<> His choice brought him into close association with hordes of discontented former slaves.
<> His choice caused him to face persecution by his own race – the people he was called to lead.
Once Moses had seriously considered his people’s plight, he knew palace life would never bring him lasting satisfaction. Realizing the Egyptians would blame him for this mass exodus, he chose to identify with this despised nation of slaves. He preferred suffering maltreatment with them over the comforts of the Egyptian court. Moses knew his kinsmen, not the Egyptians, were the ones destined to receive God’s promises.
The luxuries Moses enjoyed since he was an infant could certainly have influenced him to stay. But the regal pleasures were temporal and the future rewards were eternal. He understood loyalty to Egypt was not compatible with loyalty to Jehovah. To choose “the treasures of Egypt” would mean rejecting God’s favored people. Only by renouncing all claims to royalty was he free to face the trials awaiting him. The nation of Egypt typifies the sinful world with which Believers must completely sever all ties.
This verse serves to intensify the typology between Moses and Christ. “Esteeming” (hegeomai) means “to consider after giving a matter careful thought.” Moses weighed the promises of God against Egypt’s wealth. It is clear the Hebrews endured much physical abuse from their taskmasters (Ex. 1:11-14). Their sufferings are equated with the afflictions of Christ. Moses underwent some of the shame and reproach the Messiah experienced. He opted to identify with his fellow Hebrews, despite any consternation this decision might have entailed.
The writer seeks to encourage his readers to also esteem the defamation of Christ as “greater riches” than apostatizing from their faith. The word Christ is used to draw their attention to the Messiah. The phrase, “the reproach of Christ,” is employed to remind them of the ill treatment He endured. Similar shame was heaped upon Jesus centuries after Moses left Egypt. His readers were in danger of disassociating themselves from Christ’s reproach by returning to Judaism. Later in the epistle, they are encouraged to bear the shame of Jesus (13:13).
The vast wealth of the Pharaohs is evidenced by the magnificent treasures discovered in the tomb of King Tutankhamen, a Pharaoh who lived about a hundred years after the exodus. The Egyptians possessed great material riches – while the Hebrews possessed great spiritual riches. Moses could have received temporal wealth – but as Israel’s champion he received global honor. Moses faith proved him worthy of greater riches than those buried with the Pharaohs. Through the eyes of faith, he saw the future and sacrificed everything in order to obey the Lord’s directives. He looked forward to the same reward that awaits all true Believers.
QUESTIONS: THE FAITH OF MOSES
1. Name the two “treasure cities” built by the Hebrew slaves (Exodus 1:11)
2. According to Exodus 1:7, Pharaoh’s daughter did not know the baby she found was a Hebrew. True or False?
3. According to Acts 7:20, how long did Amram and Jochebed hide baby Moses?
4. The river in which bay Moses was set adrift was:
A. the Euphrates
B. the Tigris
C. the Jordan
D. the Nile
E. none of the above
5. In what two ways did Moses grow to be mighty? (Acts 7:22)
6. According to Acts 7:6, how long were the Hebrews in bondage?
7. About how old was Moses when he decided to deliver his people? (Acts 7:23)
8. Moses’ decision to relinquish his position in Egypt involved:
A. great sacrifices
C. misunderstanding by others
E. all of the above
9. Moses chose to sever former associations in order to serve God. List old friendships you have relinquished in order to serve Christ.